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Access acquires Select HR

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2nd Feb 2010
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Essex-based business software group Access has moved into HR with the acquisition this week of mid-market supplier Select HR.

The Canterbury-based Select team will operate as Access Select, a division of the wider group. The plan is to integrate the web-based Select HR suite with the Dimensions financial package and other products in the Access portfolio. This cross-Thames foray demonstrates how serious Access is about expanding beyond its base in finance to reach annual revenues of £30m by 2012.

“We’re dedicated to adding real customer value by extending the reach of our software portfolio and services through this solid web-based HR offering,” said Access chief executive Alistair O’Reilly. “We’re now able to provide a complete HR, payroll and online recruitment solution to our customers that includes everything from absence, timesheets and expenses to dashboard and headcount reporting.”

The Select deal puts Access into the same league as rival accounting software groups Sage, COA Solutions, and IRIS that have acquired HR subsidiaries in recent years.

Select’s profile was a bit like that of Access a year or two back – one of a dwindling band of UK mid-market independents. Compared to the likes of ASR (acquired by COA) and Snowdrop (bought by Sage), Select was hamstrung by an ageing product range and was little more than an also-ran in the 2007 and 2008 Software Satisfaction Awards.

However, it spent 18 months developing a more modern web-based package, PeopleVision, which came on stream in the summer of 2008. This program supported “self-service” employee records and made effective use of the Microsoft Workflow Engine to trigger follow-up actions within the HR system. The results were evident in the 2009 Software Satisfaction Awards results, when a very strong response from Select users carried the company into the “satisfactory” range with a 3.2 score as the biggest challenger to category winner Octopus.

While the product showed a marked improvement, the company’s accounts suggest that it may not have delivered the desired revenue boost, with turnover increasing just £180,000 to £2.9m in the year to 31 Jan 2009. Pre-tax profits at £238,613 also failed to match the highs of £300,000 and £440,000 experienced in 2006 and 2007. The increasingly tough economic climate may have encouraged Select owners Julian and Rosemary Kirkness receptive to offers as the most recent financial year neared its end.

Select not only gives Access a new market to address, but also brings useful Microsoft-based skills that may help the larger group cope with the shift to the web-based applications. Cloud Computing has become common in HR circles but has yet to go mainstream within finance.

New Access chairman Paul Druckman commented in an online video that the acquisition will let customers link up every part of their organisation to improve the way they work and manage their people. “By acquiring Select Software, we expect to accelerate its growth rate and offer a broader portfolio to all customers,” he added.

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